Authors: Tara Wyatt
“I meant it when I said that I’ve got you.”
With his free hand, Sean tucked a strand of hair behind Sierra’s ear, tracing his thumb over her cheekbone. His eyes drifted down to her lips, and he couldn’t fight it anymore. Clearly he was hell-bent on destruction tonight, because for the first time in his ten years as a bodyguard, he was going to kiss a client.
Cupping her cheek with his uninjured hand, he slowly dipped his head and gently, tenderly closed his mouth over hers. She responded immediately, returning the kiss with a soft sigh.
Finally he was touching her and tasting her just the way he’d wanted since the day they met. Finally, and it was a thousand times better than he ever could’ve imagined. And he’d spent a lot of time imagining it.
It was the best wrong thing he’d ever done.
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For my husband Graham, who makes all my heroes look like chumps. I love you. Go Team Falcon!
This book was a long time in the making, and it wouldn’t have happened without the love, support, and encouragement of so many people.
First and foremost I would like to thank my family for supporting my dream of being a published author. Thank you to my husband, Graham, my parents, Cathy and Gerry, my brother, Wes, and my extended family, as well as my in-laws, for your love, support, and continued enthusiasm. A huge thank-you to my sister-in-law Samantha Wyatt for being one of the first people to read the book and to cheer me on, and to Joan Wyatt, who was one of my earliest fans, and who is missed every single day. A special shout-out to my dog Schroeder, who endured many walk-less days and was by my side almost constantly while I wrote.
I’d also like to thank my best friends, the Thursday Girls—Amanda, Robin, and Sarah—for putting up with months of neglect, whining, and me going on and on about made-up people. You guys are awesome, and I’m lucky to have such amazing girlfriends.
A special thanks to my fantastic critique partners, Erin Moore and Harper St. George, without whom this book would’ve been impossible to finish. I’m so incredibly lucky to work with you talented, smart, amazingly supportive ladies.
Thank you to my agent, Jessica Watterson, for believing in me and my writing, and for helping to make my dreams come true. Thanks to my editors, Lauren Plude and Alex Logan, for all your hard work. The book wouldn’t be what it is without you. And thank you to my Hamilton Public Library coworkers, who have cheered me on tirelessly from day one.
I have made so many amazing friends while writing this book, and I feel so incredibly fortunate to have people like Jenn Burke, Kelly Jensen, Kelly Siskind, Brenna Mills, Amanda Heger, and many others in my corner. Twitter friends
real friends! I would especially like to thank Shannon Richard—you are a new friend, an awesome friend, and a keeper. I’m so glad to know you.
Finally a huge, enormous, elephant-size thank-you to the Toronto Romance Writers, especially the wonderful, lovely, and talented Juliana Stone. I would not be where I am today without your kindness and support. You are amazing, and I’m lucky to know you. I would also like to thank Morgan Rhodes, Eve Silver, Molly O’Keefe, Maureen McGowan, and Nicki Pau Preto (who gets me like WHOA—I love you, bae).
Oh, and wine. Can’t ever forget the wine.
ierra Blake glanced up at the bank of lights, and tiny dots danced in front of her eyes. People didn’t often realize just how hot stage lights could be. The expression “basking in the spotlight”? That stray
had to be a typo, because it was more like “baking in the spotlight.”
“Sierra, what do you think separates you from other child stars?” The 90’s Con panel moderator directed the question at her, smoothing a hand down his tie as he glanced at the index cards clutched in one hand. She took a breath, the prickling threat of sweat teasing along her hairline. God, was she relieved she didn’t have to do this daily anymore. She smoothed her hair over her shoulder and ran her hands over the skirt of her cream-colored silk dress. Hundreds of eyes locked onto her, and a zing of adrenaline shot down to her toes.
She bit her lip and fingered the shooting star pendant at the base of her throat. “You mean, how did I avoid living ‘la vida Lohan’?”
Laughter bubbled up from the audience, and she relaxed a little. Although it was par for the course at events like this, she’d always hated that question and the quagmire of emotions it dredged up.
She took a deep breath and dove in. “Quite frankly, being a child star is pretty messed up. You’re working with adults, keeping adult hours, making adult money, and trying to live up to the expectations of everyone around you. Any kid would find that kind of pressure confining. And that’s where the rebellion comes in. Drinking and drugs and sex. And all of this is happening when you’re trying to figure out who you actually are. How are you supposed to do that in that environment?” She paused, contemplating how much to share.
“But you didn’t go down that road,” prompted the moderator.
“I didn’t. I think part of the reason is that
was an ensemble show.” She looked across the stage at her former costars, smiling warmly. “There wasn’t one star carrying everyone else. We were a group, and the older actors looked out for the younger ones. I think the shock of suddenly being in the spotlight was easier to absorb when it was shared between all of us.”
“That’s definitely true,” interjected Rory Evans, one of the other stars of the show. “We all bonded in that environment, and we became a pretty tight-knit group. We were a support system for each other without really even realizing that’s what we were doing.”
“Totally.” Steven Simmons nodded. “We were a crew. No one had pressure on his or her shoulders to make the show a success. I think part of the reason it was a success was that the bond Rory mentioned shone through on the screen. We were all friends.”
friends,” said Rory, taking a sip of his water. And it was true. Rory was a good friend, who’d seen her through the loss of a parent, through a change in career, from her teens to her thirtieth birthday just a few months ago.
“For sure,” said Sierra, grateful that she hadn’t had to shoulder the question on her own. “I can’t speak for everyone else, but I think if I’d started in movies instead of on a TV show with the cast we had…” She shrugged. “Well, I don’t know. I might’ve given Lindsay a run for her money.”
“We all might’ve. In fact, some of us tried,” said Steven, looking around innocently and drawing laughter from the audience. Although he had it together now, the antics of his early twenties were well documented.
“We did,” said Sierra, her fingers once again straying to her star pendant. Rory reached over and squeezed her knee, giving her an encouraging nod. “You know the drinking, and the drugs, and the sex that I just referenced? All of that was true, at least for me. There was a period, between when
ended and when I started working on
, that I…” She trailed off, her fingers knotted together. “I lost control. I was seventeen, and my dad was dying of cancer. I was trying to figure out…well, everything, I guess. I was lost. Scared. So I drank, and I partied, and I hooked up with boys, trying to find a way to quell the fear that my world was about to end. Keep in mind that I also lived in a world that completely facilitated this behavior. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t legal, I had no issues getting into bars, finding someone to sell me pot, or getting boys’ attention. That whole Hollywood world was so toxic. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was. Especially for a scared, lost kid. Everything came crashing down when my dad died, and then I had a pregnancy scare.”
She forced herself to take a breath, and Rory gave her knee another squeeze. “I’m telling you all of this to partly explain that in some ways, I’m not so different from other child stars. I was messed up. And that toxic environment is why I’m not really in that world anymore.
“When I thought I was pregnant, I went to Choices. For anyone who doesn’t know, Choices is a nonprofit organization that provides confidential reproductive, maternal, and child health services at low or no cost, and has centers across the country. I didn’t know where else to go. I didn’t want to tell my mom. I didn’t even know if I was pregnant, and I was too chicken to go buy a pregnancy test. What if someone recognized me?
“I was able to take a test there, and it turned out that I wasn’t pregnant, which was a relief because clearly I would’ve been ill equipped to deal with an unplanned pregnancy at seventeen. I didn’t have my own life together. How could I even think about a baby’s life? The support I received at Choices played a huge role in turning my life around. They offered me counseling, birth control, and support at a time when I felt alone and scared. So after I finished working on
, I went to college, and now I work for Choices. I’m proud to be their spokesperson, because I know firsthand what a difference they can make in someone’s life. Frankly, I—”